What I Learned From Keeping a Diary in College


Roommate Bonding Reimagined

It seems like an early 2000s dramatic comedy subplot, but it’s actually one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. My three roommates and I have matching brown leather journals that we write in daily. 

Over the summer, my roommates and I watched Bridget Jones’s Diary. We loved how she narrated her funny adventures in a casual style, so it sounded like she was reading from a diary entry. We joked that we should narrate our lives with journals of our own. 

The joke became a trip to the State Street Target, where we picked out designed notebooks and glittery pens for our junior year journals.

When I first started writing in my journal, the entries were long and detailed. I felt stressed about writing every detail I could remember. Down to the socks I wore, I wrote my little list of what I wore, who I saw, and how I felt every day. 

When school began and work became busy, the time between my entries became longer and longer until I stopped writing altogether. This empty space made me anxious to write again, and I hated feeling like it would have to be a perfect entry the next time I wrote. 

One magical day, a stroke of inspiration lit up on the bright screen of my iPhone. I stumbled upon a TikTok where a girl was reading her second-grade diary. This girl’s second-grade self had the shortest, funniest, writing, and thousands of people loved it. 

Her fun, silly, second-grader writing made me realize that writing in a diary is not about filling the pages with specific details about each and every day. If you can write like that every day, I’m so jealous!

I remembered that I bought this journal to have a fun and unique shared experience with my roommates, not to write papers for my English classes. Now, I write as much as I can every day and don’t let myself feel guilty if all I can come up with for an entry is the number of hours I spent studying at Memorial Library. The funniest entries are only a sentence or two highlighting what I remembered most from that day. 

Writing every day without worrying about the content quality or the word count is a form of therapy I can’t recommend enough. Although, if you have nosy roommates, I suggest hiding your journal or buying a fun diary with a lock and key, like the ones they had at Justice in 2009. 

Another fantastic thing that has happened since my roommates and I bought journals is that we have a new way to bond. We share how challenging it is to keep up with writing during school, and we joke about how we’ll write a strongly worded letter to each other later when we know we’re just going to fill in some details in our diaries. 

As the resident writer roommate, I enjoy hearing their different styles and voices. There was a day when we all went apple picking just outside of Madison, and when we talked about what we would write about later, we all picked out different stories from the day. One of my roommates was writing a review of apples based on how high they were in the tree, another was writing about the carpool, and I was writing about how it was my first time going apple-picking. It was also the first time I realized that even the people you spend the most time with have different experiences than you.

We all need people who will spontaneously buy diaries with us. It’s more than just a place to write down the latest college memories; it’s a symbol of the work it takes to maintain genuine relationships. I wouldn’t trade my diary or my roommates for anything (unless one of them reads it).

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